Support services group Interserve has announced a 44.2% fall in interim pre-tax profit.
In the first six months of this year, it made a pre-tax profit of £11.1m, down from £19.9m in the same period in 2002.

But the company stated that the underlying pre-tax profit was £22.1m when exceptional items, such as operating losses of £2.1m from discontinuing operations, were taken into account.

Turnover from the group's continuing operations was £557.4m, a slight fall from £562.1m last year. In spite of this, the board decided to increase the interim payment to shareholders by 5% to 4.2p.

Interserve chairman Mike Bottjer said the company's record workload of £3.9bn boded well for the future.

He said: "We have achieved a great deal of success in the first six months of 2003 in winning important new contracts in both the public and private sectors.

"As a result, our forward order book now stands at a record level, which represents a significant future revenue stream and is a strong indicator that we are well positioned for long-term growth."

The order book has been boosted by the announcement this week that Interserve has been chosen by NHS Estates along with 11 other contractors to work on the £7bn Procure 21 project.

This framework agreement covers all non-PFI construction projects with a capital cost greater than £1m.